Why does the EU disproportionately fixate on Israel? - opinion

The EU’s extreme and illogical fixation seems to represent and echo the long-held personal aversion and hostility to Israel of EU High Representative Josep Borrell.

 EU HIGH Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell rings a bell in Brussels during a special video conference of EU foreign ministers to discuss Mideast developments, particularly the ongoing violence in Israel and the Palestinian areas, last year. (photo credit: OLIVIER HOSLET/REUTERS)
EU HIGH Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell rings a bell in Brussels during a special video conference of EU foreign ministers to discuss Mideast developments, particularly the ongoing violence in Israel and the Palestinian areas, last year.
(photo credit: OLIVIER HOSLET/REUTERS)

As part of its “Joint Strategy in support of Palestine,” the European Union recently circulated among its twenty-seven member states a confidential document titled “European Joint Development Program for Area C,” dated June 2022. The document proposes ways for “defending the rights of Palestinians living in Area C as part of a future Palestinian state in line with the Oslo Accords.”

The assumptions that form the basis of the document include oft-repeated, misleading and malicious political allegations of “Israel’s creeping annexation and deepening control over Area C,” through “settlement expansion, settler violence, demolitions, destruction of livelihood assets, evictions, forcible transfers and confiscation, in systematic violations of international law.”

The document proposes various measures to finance and advance monitoring, undercutting and undermining Israel’s policies through land surveying in the area, providing support and legal assistance to Palestinian residents prosecuting land claims in Israeli courts, monitoring Israeli archeological exploration and other activities.

Under the 1993-1995 Oslo Accords, signed and witnessed by the EU together with the United States, Russia and Norway, Israel and the Palestinian leadership (PLO) agreed, pending the completion of negotiation on the permanent status of the territories, to divide the West Bank areas of Judea and Samaria into three distinct areas of control and administration. The Palestinian Authority was established as the governing agency for the administration of those parts of the territories placed under Palestinian jurisdiction.

Full administrative and security powers and responsibilities over the large Palestinian towns, defined as Area A, were transferred by Israel to the Palestinian Authority and police. The highly populated Palestinian villages and camps outside the main towns became Area B, with full Palestinian civil control over the residents and shared security jurisdiction between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Josep Borrell speaks at a news conference on the Russian military operation against Ukraine, at EU headquarters in Brussels on Sunday (credit: STEPHANIE LECOCQ/REUTERS)Josep Borrell speaks at a news conference on the Russian military operation against Ukraine, at EU headquarters in Brussels on Sunday (credit: STEPHANIE LECOCQ/REUTERS)

It was agreed that the remainder of the territory, Area C, inhabited both by Palestinians residing in small villages, hamlets, Israeli towns, villages and security installations would remain under Israel’s full control, jurisdiction and administration. Further periodic redeployments were anticipated commensurate with the assumption of responsibility for public order and internal security by the Palestinian Police in the areas.

However, in light of the difficulties in implementing the agreement and the Palestinian refusal to return to negotiating a permanent status agreement, such further redeployments have never materialized.

In attempting to undermine and to intervene in Israel’s legitimate and agreed-upon jurisdiction and governance in Area C, and in supporting Palestinian attempts to violate the Oslo Accords, the EU is in fact violating the terms of the very agreement to which it attached its signature as witness.

The false assumptions the Eu relies on for their Palestinian policies

In so doing, the EU relies on several utterly false and misguided assumptions. Claiming that Area C is “to be preserved as part of a future Palestinian state in line with the Oslo Accords” based on the two-state solution is simply a mistaken and misleading interpretation of the Oslo Accords. They made no reference whatsoever to any “future Palestinian state” or “two-state solution.”

On the contrary, the Palestinian leadership and Israel agreed that the ultimate fate of the territories will be agreed upon in permanent status negotiations. No determination was made as to the outcome of such negotiations, whether they will result in one, two or three states, a federation or a confederation.

THE AIM of the parties, with the support and active encouragement of the witnesses, including the EU, was to leave the permanent status of the territories to future negotiation. Therefore, the two-state vision was and continues to be nothing more than a vision, and was never based on any commitment between the parties. The fact that the EU and others persistently maintain the assumption of a two-state solution is nothing more than wishful thinking.

The EU document notes the EU’s commitment to “contribute to building a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.” However, the Oslo Accords made no mention whatsoever of the 1967 borders. On the contrary, there has never been any 1967 border but an Armistice Demarcation Line established in the 1949 Armistice Agreements between Israel and its neighbors under UN auspices.

These agreements stated specifically that the Armistice Demarcation line was not intended to constitute a border but rather a temporary line separating the forces pending negotiation of peace agreements.

Furthermore, both 1967 UN Security Council resolution 242 establishing the conditions for Middle East peace following the 1967 Six Day War, as well as Palestinian leadership and Israel in the Oslo Accords, agreed that negotiation on borders would be on the negotiation table in the permanent status negotiations. The EU and its member states fully supported these international determinations.

Now, the EU cannot and should not attempt to prejudge or impose the outcome of the permanent status negotiation. In attempting to undermine Israel’s legitimate administration in Area C and in encouraging the Palestinians to violate the accords, the EU is in clear violation of its commitment vis-a-vis the Israeli and Palestinian parties to the Accords.

The EU is also abrogating its obligations under international law and practice as a witness and signatory to the Accords, not to undermine or undercut them. By any logic, rather than hounding Israel and undermining its legitimate governance in Area C, it might be expected that the EU would better expend its efforts and influence on encouraging the Palestinian leadership to return to the peace negotiating table rather than violating the Accords.

It would appear that the EU’s extreme and illogical fixation with Israel is not necessarily shared by state members of the EU. It seems to represent and echo the long-held personal aversion and hostility to Israel that the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell has displayed long before taking up his EU post.

Regrettably, this aversion to Israel is faithfully implemented by the EU External Action Service whose major purpose and staff seem to be devoted to undermining and seeking to delegitimize Israel. So much so that it is patently clear that the tail appears to be wagging the dog, rather than the opposite.

It is high time that the state members of the EU play a greater role in determining EU policies regarding the Middle East peace process, rather than allowing the biased, partisan and fixated EU External Action Service to dictate policy regarding Israel and the territories.

By the same token, it is high time that Israel’s government take a far more assertive role in clarifying to the EU and its member states that the anti-Israel fixation of its staff and its actions in undermining Israel’s legitimate authority and jurisdiction in Area C will no longer be tolerated and must cease.

The writer served as the legal adviser of Israel’s Foreign Ministry and as Israel’s ambassador to Canada. He participated in the negotiation and drafting of the Oslo Accords.